The Great Experiment… that’s what our system of government was called. After almost 250 years, we are still trying to work out this experiment… but I think it’s going pretty well. I often cringe when I hear about spreading democracy, considering the fact that we were founded as a republic. In a democracy, majority rules, and in a republic, a system of checks and balances is in place to make sure that the majority does not become so powerful that they deny equal rights to the minority. But by the fact that we are trying to make sure majority will is protected at the same time that the minority rights are protected shows we are still in the active process of making the US a great country. The important thing in America, whether you consider us a democracy or a republic, is that our goal is to get the most people involved in the system, whether by their direct action, or by their choosing someone to act for them.
Policy-wise, I gave a full breakdown of the type of candidate I would want in my blog, “Who Would Jesus Elect?” But on a more practical level, what do/should we want in a president? A president should be able to pull together the greatest minds available and place them in associate positions of leadership (like his cabinet), develop the appropriate programs and strategies to solve problems, and mobilize the citizenry to support these efforts. If a president can effectively do this, he will be able to deal with issues from taxes to foreign aid. The president is not necessarily an economist, or a soldier, or a city planner, or a farmer, or an ambassador, etc., but he is expected to have studied those areas and debated the merits of various philosophies pertaining to those areas in some meaningful way at a regional or national level. Based on these criteria, Barack Obama is the best of the five candidates we have to be elected president in 2008. I think Huckabee was probably the best candidate overall, and Edwards was the best for what I wanted our next president to do, but Obama has proven himself, even to me.
A wise pastor once said to me, “if you don’t know what to do next, find out what God is doing, and do that.” He was basically saying that the best way to get something done is to work with a person or person that was already doing it. People don’t walk into a job and magically take on new skills, philosophies, and personality traits. Whether taking on a partner, hiring an employee, or looking for a mentor, you want someone who already exemplifies what you want. Going back to the previous paragraph, Obama’s campaign is presidential in nature, and is based on who he is professionally and personally. Although highly educated, he is professionally, first and foremost a community organizer. His campaign was truly a grass roots effort, organized from the ground up. He has the biggest “ground game” of door to door workers ever assembled. He is a visionary that saw online communities as true communities, and met with his fellow Americans on Myspace, Facebook, and Blackplanet. He included all fifty states as part of his campaign target area, something that no party candidate has done in a very long time. And he has successfully, through his national effort to get people involved at the local level of the political process, brought more first time voters into the process than anyone in history. Win or lose, he has forever changed the way campaigns are run, because he proved that he could do it without lobbyists or political favors as long as you involve the people you plan to lead.
He was not successful at this alone. He was successful because he was able to bring in the best minds available to him to plan out his strategies, to plan out his platform, and to serve as his “cabinet” and his sub-leaders. There is an old saying that Democratic presidents are brilliant men who surround themselves with idiots, and Republican presidents are idiots who surround themselves with brilliant men. Obama is a brilliant man who surrounded himself with brilliant men and women. Obama’s presidential campaign is a great example of someone already being presidential. All of his policies, whether economic, or foreign affairs, or education, involve bringing people to the table and getting them to understand each others’ perspectives first, then implementing change from the bottom up. He is consistent… you want that in a president.
There really is no thing as “being prepared” to be president. That’s why they all go gray in their first two years in office. But you can be presidential in how you conduct business before you’re elected. Obama has done that. . To say he is inexperienced would be like saying Ross Perot would have been incompetent as president. But as a non-politician, Perot was accepted across the board as a viable candidate, and if he were on a major party ticket would probably have won. Experience has to be taken in the context of level of exposure, level of success, and ability to translate success in one area to success in another. Although his is constantly compared to Sarah Palin in experience, if you take accomplishments by age, he is closer to Bill Clinton. If you make the same comparison by age with Palin, at age 24, when he a community activist, she was a sports reporter. At age 30, when she was serving on the Wasilla town council, he was graduating Magna Cum Laude from law school as the president of the Harvard Law Review. At age 32 she became the Mayor of Wasilla, and he was Founding Executive Director of Public Allies Chicago (and organization that trains youth to become future leaders) while teaching Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law school. Regardless as to what they did in their first two years as Governor and Senator, respectively, Palin has devoted her life to mastering where she is, and Obama has devoted his life to learning from the past to help create a better future. Also, Palin has spent her life pushing people who don’t agree with her out of power, and Obama has sought to win those who don’t agree with him over, or finding common ground.
Some things that have been issues with him, really just aren’t issues To say he is a socialist is to define him by sentences rather than by track record. He has offered no socialist legislation at the state or national senatorial level. He has no socialist advisors in his inner or outer circle. But beyond that, for him to have any impact as a socialist, he would have to have a socialist leaning Senate, Congress, Supreme Court and Governorship. Even if the Democrats control government, unless you can equate being a democrat with being a socialist, any change to socialism is IMPOSSIBLE… particularly changing 242 years of government in four years. No president in recent times has had any meaningful impact on the “direction” of our country in only one term… except for maybe Kennedy… and that was because Kennedy was primarily a visionary who was able to get his vision to be excepted by the people from the ground up so it lasted beyond his life. The only way we will become a Socialist country is if we are conquered by Russia, otherwise it is IMPOSSIBLE. Is Obama a closet Muslim, or a Hateful Christian? He can’t be both, because no Muslim would sit in any Christian church for twenty years. Based on his track record of “his” actions, he is neither. If he was, someone from some mosque would have come forward by now, as would someone who feels that Obama had acted racist toward them. Neither has happened. The majority of his advisors over the past fifteen years have been/and still are White, as was his mother and grandparents who raised him. In the Bible, the Hebrew boys stayed in the oven, but since they were focused on Jesus who was in there with them, they couldn’t get burned. It’s the same with Obama hearing occasional race-based talk from his pastor. As far as being a terrorist, working on a committee with Ayers no more makes him a terrorist than working on a committee with Dick Luger makes him Republican. Obama works with people on the commonality of a goal, and not on of their philosophies other than that goal. He is also criticized for not going against his party. When your goal is to find common ground, you work to bring people together rather than “go against” anyone. I could go on, but hopefully that’s enough.
There are actually six candidates in this race, and two of them are named Obama. They are Hope Obama, and Fear Obama. The majority of voters are either voting for Obama because he represents Hope, or voting against Obama because he represents Fear. The republicans have spent so much time and money pushing Fear Obama, that the little time and money spent on promoting McCain relegated him to third party status. While this may have worked in the past, people have lived in unceasing fear for the past eight years already. Whether the Axis of Evil, or Terrorists, or Orange Alerts, people are tired of being governed by Fear. That is why Hope Obama speaks to crowds of 100,000, while McCain talks about Fear Obama to 6,000.
In terms of what he is currently doing and how that will translate to his presidency, I think McCain made two major mistakes. Sarah Palin was not one of them. As I stated in my blog, The Brilliance of John McCain, I think Palin was an excellent political move. If the bottom hadn’t fallen out of the economy, McCain would have won. One thing he did wrong was to bring in Karl Rove, and his campaign strategy. Rove destroyed what would have been McCain’s best chance to be President in 2000, by all but destroying his good name. Its true that those who live by sword die by the sword, but those who die by the sword cannot be brought back to life by the sword. McCain should have left Rovian politics alone. But even before then, McCain made the decision to “go after the base” that had never accepted him. Your base is always a fringe group, and you have to have confidence that they will come through for you regardless. He didn’t have that confidence. When Obama was being pressured to bring in Hillary, he didn’t go with political expediency because he would have turned off his base of young folks looking for something different. Biden may be old as dirt, but he was not the familiar face for Obama’s base that Hillary was. If McCain would have stayed focused on the Independents from the beginning, he would have cut into Obama’s growth factor, and almost ensured he would have won the numbers game. To summarize, what McCain is currently doing is changing who he is on the fly and not sticking to any plan of attack long enough for people to rally behind it. Thus, he is currently getting more Fear Obama votes than pro-McCain votes. He is not being presidential.
Obama would not have been a great candidate four years ago, and may not even be one four years from now, win or lose. But he is the best candidate for what our country needs today. We need to not only be proud to be Americans, we need to be happy to be Americans. Obama makes people happy to be Americans. Bush destroyed Kerry over his “global litmus test” line four years ago, but we have failed it, and we need to rebuild our international image. McCain has a good reputation with leaders around the world, but Obama has a good reputation with citizens around the world. That’s what we need in our global community. I took my soon-to-be two year old daughter with me in the booth Saturday, because I was voting for her future. I thought I would tear-up, but I didn’t… I felt relieved. But this morning I heard Harvest for the World by the Isley Brothers on Tom Joyner’s show, and I did tear up. I remember listening to that song on 8-track when I was a kid, knowing I planned to devote my life to making that song come true. I used to tear up on the line, “Dress me up for battle, when all I want is peace. Those of us who pay the price, come home with the least”, just like I did today. Like those who came before me, I don’t mind coming home with less if my children get to reap the rewards of my sacrifice. Hope Obama doesn’t just represent the possibility that we will heal our divisions as a country, he represents hope that their will be a Harvest for the World… my daughter’s world… and that’s why I voted for him.
Dedicated to my boy Zachariah